Digital platforms revolutionising 75,000 crore Indian private coaching industry

Inadequate teaching in schools and colleges and mounting ambitions have led to a mushrooming of private tutoring centres

Traditionally, students had no choice – they had to re-locate to a coaching hub to better prepare. Thus were born a Kota or an Allahabad. But with the advent of digital, that is not really the case anymore.

Just about five minutes from the IIT gate is Munirka, an area in South Delhi. In the past few years it has become a lively hub of students aspiring for bank and government jobs, thanks to the numerous coaching centres that have popped up in the area. Today we can rightly say that Munirka is a coaching hotspot in Delhi, just like Mukherjee Nagar, Kalu Sarai and Laxmi Nagar are.  

Ashutosh Kumar of one such coaching centres, KD Campus, who looks after the Munirka branch, says, “In a few years this place has developed into a hub for coaching centres, mainly because it closer to colleges and IIT. This place is also a better option for students to stay, as rents are lower while the amenities are good. One can easily avail public transport to go anywhere in Delhi NCR.”

The same can be said of Gopalpura bypass area in Jaipur which has also become a go-to destination for coaching classes for various competition exams. Coaching centres have started mushrooming in this area due to a Supreme Court ruling, which insists that coaching centres should be shifted to a commercial area to give students a more professional surroundings instead of creating bottlenecks in residential areas.

Meenakshi, who works as counsellor at Panacea Institute that undertake classes for SSC and bank exams, talks about why Gopalpura area has emerged as a coaching hub in the past years: “Earlier coaching centres were in Lalkothi area but when court ordered to shift the facilities to a commercial area, Gopalpura became the preferred destination as it was readily available. Although I have seen the shutting up of many centres in the area, we can say it has 10 to 12 well-established centres for various streams of competitive exams. Gopalpura area also acts as a centre point as it is nearby to universities and other areas where students reside. Transport is also easily available to this location.”

Ashutosh-Kumar-Meenakshi

Then there are Kota and Allahabad, which remain unquestionably number one choices for engineering, medical and IAS, PCS aspirants. The gist of this coaching tale is easy to comprehend: there’s a lot of money to be made in this business.

In fact, ASSOCHAM in 2013 has already forecasted the growth of private tutoring market to be close to $70 billion at the end of 2017. However, the scope of this industry is still not realised fully, as a large portion of it is still unorganised. In 2014, National Sample Survey Organisation surveyed at least 66,000 households to find out about the education scenario in the country. The survey findings state that 7.1 crore, which is almost 26 per cent of the total number of the students in the country, at that time were estimated to be taking private coachings and tuitions. The report also estimated that about 11 per cent to 12 per cent of the total expenditure incurred by the families were spent on private coachings and tuitions. Based on the data, it is not wrong to say that almost all students are using some sort of private teaching in addition to their formal education.

In 2016, Jehangir Pheroze Bharucha of HR College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai did an independent research within education institutes of Mumbai on the popularity of coaching classes among students. The responses collected from 60 students were published in a research platform called Researchgate, which states the interesting finding, “From amongst the students who have opted to enroll in coaching classes (65 per cent), a substantial (45 per cent) do so because they appear for board/university examinations and do not wish to take any kind of risk. It is found that even if students are confident in their ability to study by themselves, they lack the confidence in the ability of the faculty to complete the syllabus on time. About 30 per cent respondents think that tuitions will help boost their grades while almost 27 per cent opt to join coaching classes because they find the subjects difficult to study. Educational institutions should note that 27 per cent of the respondents cited the reason for needing additional coaching to be an unsatisfactory level of teaching in the colleges. When it came to the marketing strategies of coaching classes, a little less than 2 per cent of students claim they were lured to join the class because of promotional offers like discounts and packages.”

Further, the study finds out, “A sizeable 50 per cent of the respondents claim that gaining ample practice for the exams is one of the main advantages they perceive in joining a coaching class. It is found that colleges are defaulting in this sphere and even the tests given by the colleges are for most part never assessed or discussed with the students on their performance. Coaching classes are known for giving a brief, to-the-point notes and not wavering from the syllabus for the examination. About 36.67 per cent respondents said they joined classes to gain access to notes that are framed strictly from the point of view of the examinations.”

Also about 30 per cent of the students said that a major advantage of coaching classes is that they finish the syllabus well ahead of time giving them ample time to learn, says the study. Moreover, the study also identifies another winning trait of coaching classes wherein the faculty at the coaching classes is available to answer questions on their mobile phones throughout the day and even till late at night the day before the exam. The same cannot be said for college professors.

According to Central Board of Secondary Education which is the official organiser of the Joint Entrance Exam Main, this year around 10.43 lakh students appeared for IIT JEE. This data only shows the number of engineering aspirants, though overall aspiring students will be more than this. “No doubt, private coaching is a thriving industry today,” says Jayashree Srivastava, Managing Director at Ishan VidyaPrep which is a consulting firm focusing on various aspects of education sector and helps preparing students for top international universities. “Private tuitions and coaching centres have become extremely competitive especially for entrance exams such as engineering and medical. They provide competitive environment, which pushes aspirants towards their goals,” says Srivastava. According to her, socio economic factors also contributed towards the growth of coaching centres.  Also, she points out that coaching centres have nowadays become a trend.

Interestingly, on the school level, education has changed a lot. Many schools like Pathways and Step by Step offer an international curriculum. They also follow the International General Certificate of Secondary Education and International Baccalaureate Board. And yet in the past years more tuition centres have mushroomed in the country.

In 2010, Neeru Snehi Assistant Professor at National University of Educational Planning and Administration wrote a paper on the implications of private tuitions on the quality of secondary education. Her research highlights the possible reasons for the growing private coaching centres: “Private tutoring can be considered some form of private supplementary education. It thrives in countries where the public education system fails to satisfy the needs of the students. Private tutoring can result from corruption in the education system, where teachers require their students to go to their extra classes to supplement their income because they are poorly paid and monitored. Competition in all the fields, including education, is another factor, which is influencing the practice of private tutoring.”

Even if there is a huge change in the education system, parents are opting for private tuitions for their children. Srivastava blames it on teaching: “If classroom teachings were good enough, students would not require to go outside. In my opinion, private mentoring has become popular, as teachers nowadays are not passionate enough, they might have right degrees but are not well trained sometimes to teach foreign boards. Also, in a classroom there are many students. Hence, they are not able to give personalised attention to each and every child. Main thing is that we have to raise the level of teaching in schools and colleges.”

Going digital

Traditionally, students had no choice – they had to re-locate to a coaching hub to better prepare. Thus were born a Kota or an Allahabad. But with the advent of digital, that is not really the case anymore. For instance, the top 10 rankers of the 2017 civil services exams belong to eight different states. They did not move to a coaching hub to prepare for their exams. With rise of various digital education platforms more and more aspirants are opting for them, as these give them the advantage of time; they are easy to access at home and, thus, cut short the need to travel to a destination. Previously, these platforms were not popular as students were of the opinion that they did not provide authentic content and quality education. But online education platforms are gradually changing the trend by perfecting themselves and improving the quality. Ilma Afroz, all India rank 217, a resident of a small town named Kundarki in Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh prepared for her civil services examination with the help of online courses. Even students who reside in coaching hubs see value in online education, including better time management. Saumya Sharma, AIR 9, chose online courses despite belonging to Delhi.

Ed-tech start-up Neo Stencil claims 100 online selections in 2016 and over 120 selections in UPSC/CSE in 2017. Its co-founder and CEO Kush Beejal says, “Our consistent track record year after year shows that we are able to solve a real problem faced by exam aspirants using technology.”

Jayashree-Srivastava-Raj-Singham

Seeing the success of online tutoring, traditional coaching classes are also adapting themselves to reach out to remote areas like Port Blair in Andaman & Nicobar Island. In Port Blair, for instance, each household has two or more government employees. This translates to a higher demand for government services exams. An area called Middle Point was a big coaching spot where most of the tuition classes run. However, besides having network issues Raj Singham is making a big difference for the aspirants who cannot afford to relocate or don’t want to go for coaching classes. His Vidyamandir provides satellite classes. “We at Vidyamandir conduct coaching classes for IAS aspirants. VSAT classes are not limited to Andaman only; if someone needs counselling or classes they can attend via live streaming from anywhere in the country. This will also cut the cost of students,” says Singham.

Be it online or physical, coaching centres are here to stay. The overall growing competitions and increasing expectations from parents have created a domino effect. Coaching classes are viewed as necessary step and now has evolved parallel to the mainstream education system.

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